Sunday, May 31, 2015

The dime box frankenset, Page 66: Numbers 586-594

Last week's frankenset voting was another rout.

Win -- 1988 Fleer #582 Tim Flannery (15 votes)

Place -- 1992 Topps #581 Stan Javier (4 votes)

Show -- 2012 Topps #584 Daric Barton (3 votes)

Surfer dude Tim Flannery obliterated the competition last week, garnering eleven more votes (including mine) than his closest competitor. The 29 total tallies, however, were the lowest turnout we've seen in a long time, and a ten-vote dip from the week before.

It seems kind of counterintuitive, but voting has dipped whenever there's been a seemingly "obvious" winner on the page lately. Either way, I encourage people to vote every single week, because the more votes we get, the more fun I have composing these frankenset polls.

You never know when the "obvious" card might not be so obvious after all.

But that's enough of me whining for one post.

I don't see an obvious winner on this week's page, so hopefully that'll get a few more readers to hit the polls.

Let's meet the nine new nominees.

1993 Donruss #586 Joe Oliver

Why does "Wipeout" play in my head every time I see this card?

2011 Topps #587 J.P. Arencibia

A tip of the cap for the hometown crowd. 

2004 Topps Total #588 Rene Reyes

I demand the highest of fives.

1992 Donruss #589 Jose Tolentino

The rare "pinch hitter" position listing.

1990 Upper Deck #590 Andy Allanson

This strikes me as one of the more dramatic cards I own. 

1994 Collector's Choice #591 Spike Owen

Double dipping with Collector's Choice. 

1988 Donruss #592 Curt Wilkerson

You'll break a finger bunting like that. 

1993 Score #593 Robby Thompson

It's not easy turning two with the runner barreling down on you like that.

2014 Topps #594 Justin Maxwell

This week's page closes out with some postgame mischief in horizontal form.

The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Friday, May 29, 2015

2015 Topps Gypsy Queen: By default

There are a seemingly infinite number of reasons to buy a pack of baseball cards, it seems.

Love for the hobby, unbridled excitement over a new set, eagerness to keep up with the latest and greatest releases in the card market, and so on.

I wish I could say that there was a more positive basis for this afternoon's purchase of a 2015 Gypsy Queen pack from my local Target. I really do. But let's go over the three actual reasons it wound up in my cart.

1) I haven't bought a pack of cards in a few months, so I was itching to bust almost anything. It almost didn't matter what.

2) That said, I wanted to have an outside chance of getting something new. I'm pretty much set on nearly all the base cards from Series 1, Opening Day, and Heritage.

3) It was either Gypsy Queen or Donruss, and Donruss is a hellhole. GQ pretty much won by default.

So that's the rather dubious story of how I wound up with this skimpy six-card, $2.99 pack of cards.

#72 Carlos Martinez

I always feel like I'm missing something with Gypsy Queen.

Lots of other collectors seem to love the heck out of this brand, but I've personally never seen it. I thought the inaugural release in 2011 was halfway decent, but nothing since has been much more than mediocre to me.

While I don't think it quite eclipses it, I will say that the 2015 edition comes the closest to cracking that "mediocre" line in the sand. The borders are still a bit busy for my taste, but this design is a lot cleaner than the LOOK AT ME!!!! templates from past years.

For me, Gypsy Queen hits its stride with these types of Spring Training poses.

#84 John Smoltz

It's cards like these that cause me to sour on GQ.

Gypsy Queen is based on a late 1800s tobacco checklist. If Topps really wanted to honor the set's roots, the photos would be all poses. (Or, even better, perhaps some of the "posed action" studio shots of the 19th century.)

Listen, you know me. I'm a big rah-rah guy when it comes to action shots. But I'm also about making throwback sets feel authentic as possible, and cards like this Smoltz don't do that. Action shots don't belong in a set like Gypsy Queen, if you ask me.

Topps doesn't seem to be able to grasp that.

#167 Ian Kinsler

Another boring, unspectacular action shot.

But at least it's one of a guy I collect.

#313 Willie Stargell, Silver Mini /199

Hey, look at that.

I never pull cards like this. If I do get a semi-rare parallel out of a pack, it's almost always of someone I've never heard of and/or don't collect. Numbered cards aren't the thrill they once were for me, but it's still nice to nab one out of the blue like this, and of a Hall of Famer, no less.

Between this and the Kellogg's issue I picked up on Sunday, it's been a Willie Stargell kind of week around here.

#283 Steve Cishek

More run-of-the-mill action, although I'll give the sidewinding delivery a little credit.

#294 Brandon Phillips

And this pack closes with...a pretty nice card, actually.

As I mentioned before, I'd like to see Gypsy Queen go all-in with these types of photos. A simple Spring Training back field pose under the bright, blue sky.

That's a winning formula to me.

If you put it all together, though, GQ still isn't my cup of tea. There's just too much meh in this set for me to attach any kind of emotion to it. Even with a pull as nice as the Stargell, I still felt like there wasn't enough bang for the buck at the $2.99-per-pack price point.

In the end, I guess I should be happy that my pack-busting itch has been scratched. And, hey, Gypsy Queen still beats out Donruss every day of the week.

Take that for what you will.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Kicking off flea market season, Pt. 2

At the end of yesterday's post, I alluded to the fact that my trip to the flea market this past Sunday may have resulted in the best five dollars I have ever spent.

But I'll let you be the judge of that. Some of my readers from years past might remember that I used to rave about one particular card vendor at my local flea market. I'd never really thought about it until recently, but I didn't even know the guy's name.

Well, as I found out on Sunday, his name is Ron. With the years I've been attending the flea market, I kind of feel bad that I didn't know that until now. Anyways, Ron's table was the first one I hit during this weekend's trip, and he had the usual array of cardboard on display. A row of meaty dime boxes, piles of quarter cards, and stacks of other miscellany.

I spent around 45 minutes at his table, winding up with 307 dime cards (I somehow remember the number exactly), 12 quarter cards, three fifty-centers, and two dollar box pickups. Even with the 100/$5 dime box deal he advertises, my total should've been over twenty bucks.

So you can imagine how stunned I was when Ron quoted me five dollars on the lot. He said he wanted to give me a deal because it was the first time I'd been able to hit the flea market this year. I felt a bit guilty handing over a mere five-dollar bill for the brick of cardboard in my hands.

All things considered, though, I think Gary Carter makes for a good representation of the joy I felt after walking away from his table.

As a college student with a minuscule budget, I can't tell you how much I appreciated the deal I got from Ron.

It sure helped me out in a big way. Going into Sunday, I was hoping to keep my final purchases under twenty bucks. My total added up to seventeen bucks for the day ($19 if you count the two-dollar admission fee), which meant that this was one of the few times in my card-collecting life that I've actually stayed under budget.

And I didn't have to sacrifice any fun to do so. I still got to bask in the glory of my 300-plus dime box pickups.

Pickups which included rookie cards and short-prints.

I've said this before, but one thing I like about Ron's display is that there always seems to be a kid at his table.

A young whippersnapper who couldn't have been more than nine or ten years old was digging through the dime boxes right along with me on Sunday. At one point, the kid was looking through cards on my left while an older gentleman was doing the same on my right.

It was like a human bar graph, three generations of collectors at one table with me in the middle. I thought that was a nice little visual, and one that I'm not sure I've ever been a part of before.

The cards I found may have been terrific (including one-month hero Chris Shelton), but the actual experience of attending the flea market is just as important to me.

It's usually a given that I'll come away with a few mini-collection singles from Ron's dime boxes.

This Maddux takes its place as one of the few mini "pitchers at the plate" I own.

Here's a quartet of other themed hits.

Roger Clemens may arguably be my least favorite player in the history of baseball, but I'm not passing up on a new "tip of the cap" shot.

Oddballs are also pretty much a certainty when it comes to Ron's selection.

The older gentleman at the table found the Babe Ruth from this bite-sized oddball set at one point, and I was a little jealous. But I guess I couldn't be too disappointed, because I found Satchel Paige for myself a few minutes later.

It all worked out in the end.

Besides, there were more than enough oddballs to go around.

I'd actually asked for (and received) a handful of those Baseball Card Magazine singles from Tony a couple days before I hit the flea market. I scored about another dozen for my binders on Sunday, which was awesome because you know I can't turn down a good oddball.

And here I was thinking I had the only Eric Lindros baseball card ever made.

At one point, I noticed a half-filled box hovering near the back of Ron's table.

I thought I saw some light-colored card backs in there, and wondered if they were what I thought they were. I asked if the cards were for sale and he handed the box over to me. It only took one peek to know that my hunch was right.

They were O-PEE-CHEE!!!!!!!

I landed about three dozen new '79 OPCs after the dust settled, and, best of all, they ended up being dime cards.

At one point, the older gentleman next to me saw that I'd come across a Joe Nuxhall card from this Pacific Legends set and asked me if I knew what his big claim to fame was.

That's a softball question for a longtime fan like myself, but the guy seemed impressed that I knew the answer. I told him I'd always been a big fan of the older greats, and he handed me these Pacific Legends cards every time he came across a stack of them in the discount bins. I already had the Nuxhall, but I ended up needing a bunch of others.

That's the kind of dime box camaraderie I enjoy.

These two did their best to confirm my suspicion that, as a whole, catchers get the best baseball cards.

I really should build that "America We Stand" subset one day (it honors baseball's tributes after the 9/11 attacks), and I guess it's fitting that I found Mr. Piazza on Memorial Day weekend.

I can always get behind some dime box shiny.

Because we could all use a little shiny in our lives.

One of Ron's dime boxes was comprised of nothing but Chicago sports teams.

The baseball cards in there were about ninety percent White Sox and ten percent Cubs, for some reason. I'm a fan of both clubs, so I didn't really mind one way or the other.

The Cubs finds were minimal, but the Sox ones resulted in some real gems. In this scan alone, you have a Mark Buehrle oddball that had me stumped for a while, a new Wilbur Wood for my collection (which doesn't happen often), and two spectacular TCMA oddballs of guys you don't often see in Sox pinstripes.

That's my very first card of Larry Doby with the White Sox, in fact.

Here's an early shot of a man who would go on to great things on the South Side of Chicago.

It was the only Dodger card I bought of Paul Konerko on Sunday.

The other forty-four were all White Sox.

Konerko, who now has his #14 retired on the South Side, has always been one of my role models. He means even more to me now, considering that the first story I ever had published was based upon his last game as a member of the White Sox.

For some reason, though, I'd never chased his cards with much vigor. I'd pick up a few here and there, but that was pretty much it.

I decided to change that on Sunday. I'm now a full-throttle Konerko collector, and I boosted my meager collection of his with this smattering of pickups.

I was proud to clean Ron out of his spare Konerkos.

And all those were just the dime finds.

I still have a few others to recap, starting with the quarter boxes.

I've never been much of a sci-fi guy (or a Trekkie), but I do build the Heritage "News Flashbacks" insert set each passing year. Given the popularity of Star Trek, I thought this was going to be the toughest one to track down. In an odd twist of fate, it was actually the first I acquired.

Live long and let the quarter boxes prosper, I guess.

We get a front row seat at Wrigley for this "pitcher at the plate" shot.

It's probably the largest mini-collection card in my collection as we speak.

These two were definitely worth a couple quarters to me.

You get the full baserunner/fielder/ump combo on that glorious '73 Topps action shot.

The OPC madness couldn't help but spill over into the quarter bins.

You can't tell from the front, but that Morgan is indeed an O-Pee-Chee subject.

You'll have to take my word for it.

Even the fifty-cent bin proved no match for the OPCs.

For loose change, I'm not passing on a couple Hall of Famers with French on the back.

Would the dollar box be able to withstand the OPC charge?

Heck no.

Spending anything more than about fifty cents on a single card usually requires a bit of extra consideration on my part, but I didn't have to think twice about Reggie.

He's more than deserving of a buck, I'd say.

My second dollar pickup was actually an entire checklist of cards.

Ron had a couple of these 1988 White Sox Coke sets in his dollar box, and I couldn't resist picking one of them up. The cards themselves are actually more square than rectangular, so they're tough to fit into a nine-pocket page.

But that's really a small concern when you see how terrific these oddballs are. The highlights include a shot of the old Comiskey Park (which I never got to see for myself), the Sox's old mascots Ribbie and Roobarb, and my very first card of a stadium organist with Miss Nancy Faust.

This set packed quite a punch for a mere dollar.

Still, even with all the top-notch cardboard I've shown already, we have to go back to the dime boxes for what I think were my greatest finds of the day.

I can probably count the times I've found Kellogg's cards for a dime on one hand.

And, even in most of those rare cases, they were late '70s/early '80s issues of second-tier players. Never any huge stars from older Kellogg's sets...nothing like a 1971 Kellogg's card of a Hall of Famer like Tony Perez or anything.

This beauty was sandwiched between a bunch of more recent singles, and the sheer surprise of finding it almost made me swoon in the muggy flea market afternoon. But I kept my composure and calmly added Mr. Perez to my pile, knowing that I'd just made one of my all-time best dime box pickups.

What could possibly top that?

How about a second '71 Kellogg's Hall of Famer?

A few minutes after the Tony Perez experience (dibs on the band name), none other than Willie Stargell emerged from the dime box depths, again surrounded by a pile of more contemporary commons.

How I managed to keep my feet under me when a second Kellogg's card popped out, I'll never know. But I did.

And that's the story of how I landed two Kellogg's Hall of Famers from a flea market dime box. I'd think it was a fairy tale if I didn't see it with my own eyes.

That just about does it for this whopper of a post, and I thank everyone who's made it this far. I know that was a lengthy one, but I had to show just how substantial my finds from Ron were on Sunday. And how much I appreciated the deal he cut me, because, believe me, I don't take it for granted.

I feel honored to have such a card-tastic flea market just minutes from where I live.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Kicking off flea market season, Pt. 1

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the local flea market season is officially back in swing here in Dime Boxedonia.

Some of my more tenured readers probably know how excited I am about that. But, for those who only recent came across this little blog, I'll just say that the flea market is pretty much my happy place of cardboard heaven on select Sundays during the summer months.

There are almost always vendors with cards to dig through, and there aren't many ways to better spend a summer afternoon. While the flea market had been open since early April, the important combination of time, weather, and money hadn't matched up until this past weekend. (It did drizzle a bit, but nothing major.)

As my longtime readers know, there's always good cardboard to be found at this place. A lot of miscellaneous junk, sure (no, I don't want your VHS copies of "Top Gun," thank you very much), but you'll find some gems if you dig hard enough.

The first vendor I'll discuss here today was actually the last one I stopped at on Sunday. He had a small box of quarter cards on display, and, while I only came away with four cards in total, it put a nice little cap on an afternoon well spent.

This semi-"pitcher at the plate" mini-collection hit (note Tom Glavine in the foreground) was one of the quarter suspects.

There were lots of Cals in this box, but most were of the '88 Topps or '90 Donruss variety.

Luckily, a little further investigation turned up a few stellar and harder-to-find cards of The Iron Man. Oddly enough, I'd just been browsing through a gallery of those Sports Illustrated cover inserts the night before I attended the flea market.

Call it serendipity.

Two of my regular flea market card vendors set up in the same aisle.

We'll get to the second of the two in my next post, but for now let's take a look at what I found from the first guy. He usually has three or four dime boxes on display, but doesn't usually get a ton of new cards in stock. I recognized a lot of what I sifted through on Sunday from last year's flea market trips.

But there was enough new material to salvage the dig after all. After the dust settled, I came away around fifty nifty cards from him for a wrinkled five-spot.

This oversized Matt Moore cabinet card is a little dinged up, but I gladly forked over a dime for it.

A decent portion of this guy's boxes is filled with overproduction-era material, which made these two gets all the more shocking.

I'm a big Lincecum fan, so that gold parallel was a particularly exciting find. On the contrary, I'm not much of a Chris Coghlan collector, so I'd be happy to set that camo parallel aside for anyone who wants it.

And if you're wondering why I'd pick up a card of a guy I don't collect, let me ask you this. Would you pass on a camo parallel if you found one for a dime?

My dime box genetics wouldn't allow it.

A couple for the mini-collection archives.

I feel myself start to swoon whenever I see Topps Total.

These are both from various retail team sets issued at local big box stores.

I don't think I have any gray hairs yet, but, if I did, I'd blame Carlos Marmol and his infamous three-walk saves from back in the day.

Anything from the mid '90s is always a plus when it comes to dime boxes.

I've subconsciously started to pick up rookie cards of failed prospects in recent years, and Ben Grieve may be near the top of that class. People were willing to spend north of twenty or thirty bucks for his '94 Topps Traded rookie at one point.

They could've just waited twenty years and nabbed from a dime box, like I did on Sunday.

Hindsight is always 20/20, as they say.

One of this vendor's new additions was an entire row of early '90s minor league cards in one of his 3200-count boxes.

Part of me was hoping to find a rare, pre-rookie Mariano Rivera issue (or something to that effect) in there, but, in the end, that didn't come to fruition. I wasn't expecting it to. (Although you never know with dime boxes.)

That said, it was far from a failed stack of cards. As I've said before, minor league sets are always good for hidden gems. Managers with bats. Former stars as Triple-A coaches. Awkward staged action poses. Field staffs.

Minor league sets don't need big-name superstars to be fun.

The last of the three vendors I'll be discussing today was located a few aisles down from the others.

I came across his selection a few times last year, but he didn't set up very week. When I found him on Sunday, only about an eighth of his lone 3200-count quarter box was filled. Either he didn't bring many cards, or someone pilfered through his selection before I got there.

If the latter was the case, whoever it was left behind a nice pile of goodies. I bought this Greg Maddux for the glorious '80s Padres throwback. I've actually wanted a copy of it for a long, long time because I think it's simply a fantastic card.

That's the last time you'll hear me say anything like that about Topps Co-Signers.

This one had me stumped.

The back informed me that it was produced in 2005 by none other than Topps. But I didn't remember Topps making anything like this ten years ago. It's oversized and printed on thicker cardboard, in what seems like an attempt to mimic the actual dimensions of '50s Topps cards.

Moreover, Whitey Ford doesn't even appear in the '55 Topps checklist, so it's not a reprint. ????

As a little research showed, this particular card was issued to VIP guests of the 2005 National, held right here in Chicago. Along with Stan Musial, Herb Score, and Bob Feller, the four-card set was designed to honor players who didn't appear in '55 Topps due to the infamous Topps vs. Bowman contract disputes.

Mystery solved.

I go nuts for these Galasso Glossy Greats cards, and I found about a dozen of them from this guy.

There's a very back-to-basics quality about this design that I absolutely love.

That's a whole lot of star power for just a quarter.

Surely four Hall of Famers should cost more than a shiny Washington.

This particular vendor also had a small sampling of glass case items off to the side.

A good portion of the selection was too rich for my blood, but a couple little bagged sets caught my eye near the center of the case. The guy let me take a few out for my viewing pleasure, informing me that this particular company (Front Row) produced five-card oddball sets of select players in the mid '90s.

He had about a half-dozen different sets on display (featuring the likes of Jim Palmer and Catfish Hunter, to name a few) for a buck each, but I only bought two.

I didn't want to spend a ton of money, and, besides, I figured I could always pick up the others during future flea market runs.

There were three different double dips (including the horizontal card I just showed) in Red Schoendienst batch.

That alone convinced me to take it home with me.

The beautiful shot from Don Larsen's famous perfect game (bottom-right) sold me on his set from the get-go.

The interesting fact that his name is actually misspelled as "Don Larson" on each and every one of these five cards played a role as well.

I always love a good error.

And, hey, they both even came with certificates of authenticity.

That's cold, hard proof, just in case you thought I was lying.

The last of my six dollars' worth of purchases from this last vendor was a numbered insert of Burleigh Grimes, mine for a buck.

I'm a fan of all old-timey Hall of Famers, but I'm especially fond of Burleigh Grimes for the sheer fact that I love to say Burleigh Grimes.

Burleigh Grimes. Burleigh Grimes. Burleigh Grimes.

All told, the cards I bought from the three vendors in this post cost a whopping twelve bucks. I ended up spending a total of seventeen dollars the entire afternoon. You'll have to wait until Part 2 of this mini-series to see what that remaining five bucks netted me.

I don't know that five dollars has ever been better spent.